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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am relatively new to the planted tank world. I've had this tank for about 7 months. I chose easy plants for a low maintenance experience (I have a 55 gallon reef tank that has been going for 7 year, and that is a lot of work to keep the corals happy and growing). Over the last three months or so I have been noticing the anubias leaves getting pale and moss getting brown. The moss still grows, and the moss on my backwall is much greener than the moss on the rock. Anubius still has slow new growth but looks pretty unhealthy. I started dosing Seachem Florish about a month ago and did not notice any change. In addition, I started dosing Seachem Excel about two weeks ago and still no change... maybe the dwarf hairgrass looks a little greener.

The animals seem very happy. I started with 10 orange cherry shrimp and now have more than I can count (probably like 50), the two platties I started with turned into ~15, 5 tetras, two mollies, 3 guppies.

Today I started thinking my lights may be two strong, so I reduced them by 50%. But I look forward to some opinions from people who know about this stuff :)

A little more about my tank:
20 gallon AIO Frag tank repurposed for this planted tank
Filtration: Water goes through some fine filter mesh, a bunch of sponges, 3 bags of different filter media (bio ball, cylinders, balls) with a185 gph pump
Lights: Two Current-USA LE Pro LED. I've attached the spec.
Water Changes: I do 25% to 50% water changes every week. Usually 50% because it is so easy.
Parameters: I don't test anything (I do enough of that on my reef tank). I use tap water treated with imagitarium Water Conditioner. My tap water is soft water (it run through a water softener).
No CO2:
Water Property Pet supply Rectangle Urban design

Plant Plant community Botany Terrestrial plant Vegetation

Flower Plant Plant community Terrestrial plant Grass

Plant Leaf Botany Terrestrial plant Flower

Plant Leaf Tree Groundcover Terrestrial plant


I forgot to attach my light spec. Since my tank is only 12" deep I assume the PAR is too high. Though I am not sure what normal PAR is for planted tanks.
Light Rectangle Font Line Parallel
 

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Over the last three months or so I have been noticing the anubias leaves getting pale and moss getting brown.

...

The moss still grows, and the moss on my backwall is much greener than the moss on the rock.
If moss is browning, something is killing it. It's almost never a nutrient issue.

What's your water temperature? What's the flow like where moss is browning? If it's green in the back of the tank but brown in the front, it's almost always flow that's the issue. Mosses do best in cooler tanks with decent flow. But there are a couple other things you mention that are cause for concern on that front...

I started dosing Seachem Florish about a month ago and did not notice any change.
Flourish doesn't contain NPK. You'd still need to dose those.

I started dosing Seachem Excel about two weeks ago and still no change
Excel is an algaecide and works, essentially, by stripping the surface film from plants. It's known to kill shrimp and is typically not great with moss. I could be causing a lot of your problems.

I don't test anything (I do enough of that on my reef tank)
Without knowing your water parameters, there's not a lot you can do to make educated decisions about fertilizer or other needs. Additionally, your shrimp may seem to be doing well but they may not be in ideal parameters. And when it comes to keeping plants, it's always nice to know and understand your hardness - kH and gH.

My tap water is soft water (it run through a water softener)
Water softeners are a no-go zone for planted tanks. This could also be a big part of the issues you're experiencing. Is there a way for you to bypass the softener in order to obtain water for your tank?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for the reply. I'll try and answer below:

1) Water temp is ambient to my house. So 74F at night and 78F during the day. I have a heater in there that I do not use unless we go on vacation during the winter. The moss isn't totally brown. It is more like a dark green / brown. It still grows at that color, I have to trim it every now and again. The flow is decent in that area... I can see the moss moving slowly. There seems to be less flow at the back of the tanks where the moss looks healthier.

2) What is NPK? And do you have a recommended product to use?

3) The Excel sais it is a Bioavailable Carbon. I started using it because I don't use CO2. I did not notice any change after using it.

4) I knew this was coming. What parameters should I measure and do you have some recommended test kits to use? I have titration kits for measuring Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium specifically for my salt water tank. But this sounds a bit more straight forward.

5) I'm sure there is a way to get hard water. I also have an RODI system set-up... but I think that is even worse than softwater for plants

Additional question: Does the light strength look concerning to you?
 

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The moss isn't totally brown. It is more like a dark green / brown. It still grows at that color, I have to trim it every now and again.
Brown moss is dead/dying moss. So definitely trim that off. The areas that are growing are still green and healthy and that just makes it seem like the brown parts are growing. I'd trim off all the brown and try to separate things in a way that allows flow down in the moss itself. When it gets clumped up, flow within it is greatly reduced. You can let it get kind of bushy but make sure it's not super-thick.

If flow is greater in the front of the tank, then I'm leaning toward the water you're using being an issue.

What is NPK? And do you have a recommended product to use?
Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium. The big three macro fertilizers. There are a plethora of brands - including Seachem - and even dry fertilizer salts that you can measure and dose on your own for relatively cheap. Really just depends upon your needs.

The Excel sais it is a Bioavailable Carbon. I started using it because I don't use CO2.
It's not something that is necessary. It can help in some tanks. But it's not going to help you with moss, shrimp or anubias.

What parameters should I measure
At the very least, it'd be a good idea to know ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, kH, gH. If you had a higher tech tank and did tons of complicated dosing with CO2, you'd probably want to measure some other things that likely aren't necessary for your tank. But those I listed will be handy for you to know and they're not something you'd need to test frequently or even regularly. Usually just when you're making changes or if you notice an issue you want to resolve. So in that regard, it's definitely a lot less testing than when reefing.

Brand preference is really up to you. I'd stick with the brand or brands you like on the salt side of the hobby. I like Sera on the freshwater side because they're relatively affordable. But there are several great brands (at a higher price) like Salifert.

I'm sure there is a way to get hard water. I also have an RODI system set-up... but I think that is even worse than softwater for plants
You could use RO/DI, you'd just need to remineralize it. That's what I do with most of my tanks because it allows me to have control over what makes up my water. But tap water is likely going to be fine for you. Knowing the kH and gH of your tap would be helpful, as well. The region where you live tends to have decent parameters when it comes to public water utilities.

Does the light strength look concerning to you?
I'm on my phone, so can't really see the par data on the chart you posted at the moment. But Anubias and moss are definitely lower light plants than Dwarf Hair Grass. I'm sure others will be able to chime in re: your lighting before I'm able to get to a computer.
 

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Thank you for the reply. I'll try and answer below:

1) Water temp is ambient to my house. So 74F at night and 78F during the day. I have a heater in there that I do not use unless we go on vacation during the winter. The moss isn't totally brown. It is more like a dark green / brown. It still grows at that color, I have to trim it every now and again. The flow is decent in that area... I can see the moss moving slowly. There seems to be less flow at the back of the tanks where the moss looks healthier.

2) What is NPK? And do you have a recommended product to use?

3) The Excel sais it is a Bioavailable Carbon. I started using it because I don't use CO2. I did not notice any change after using it.

4) I knew this was coming. What parameters should I measure and do you have some recommended test kits to use? I have titration kits for measuring Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium specifically for my salt water tank. But this sounds a bit more straight forward.

5) I'm sure there is a way to get hard water. I also have an RODI system set-up... but I think that is even worse than softwater for plants

Additional question: Does the light strength look concerning to you?
I believe Excel is marketed as a carbon supplement but it really is not. It's probably not going to help your moss. The Myth of "Liquid CO2" and the Dangers of Glutaraldehyde - Redux — Sunken Gardens is an interesting read (and I trust providing this link is allowed?)

NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are macronutrients which I believe means that plants take these up in large amounts. Seachem flourish claims to be comprehensive but doesn't contain these macronutrients. If you want to keep dosing the Seachem line, you'll have to pick those up separately. Otherwise, just get something like Thrive or APT (if it's available where you are) which will contain NPK.

For water parameters probably just GH, KH and nitrates.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My dKH of the tank water is 7.5 as measured on a Hanna Alkalinity Colorimeter. I'll get some kits to test the other parameters. I have felt a bit "naked" not knowing them. Most of my planted tank education is from "GreenAqua" and they said they don't test and just let the plants tell them what' wrong.... opposite of reefing.
 

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Mg is part of the GH, not the KH.

You wrote your water runs through a water softener. Is that ion-exchange based?
If yes, that's a huge problem.

It exchanges Calcium and Magnesium ions with Sodium ions. Not only are Calcium and Magnesium missing for your plants, but sodium also blocks the nutrient intake.
The solution there would be getting the water before the softener or run a RO-system and harden the water yourself to the desired values.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So I measured my tank water with all me reef kits (salifert). So I'm not sure if this community uses the same units. But yes, my tank in bare from most things:
dKH=7.5 (mentioned above)
Mg = 0 ppm (my titration kit turned blue before I could even add the tirant)
Ca = 20 ppm (extremely low for what I am used to, only a couple a drops turned it blue)
NO3 = 0 my kit reads as low as 0.2 mg/L, but no sign of any
PO4= 0 my kit reads as low as 0.03 ppm, but no sign of any

I have bottle of Magnesiu and Calcium bottles from Red Sea - specific for corals. Anybody try those before. What are the target ppms of Ca and Mg for a planted tank like mine? What about nitrate and phosphate - what are those targets? Or will dosing Thrive or APT solve that? Should I start skipping water changes?
 

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I'm somehow more interested in the water softener that you mentioned. As @Kitsune mentioned, depending on the type of softener, it might not be great for your plants.

0 nitrogen and phosphates is a little strange as your fish should be producing those. Maybe not at nearly high enough levels for the plants but there should still be some.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The water softener is pretty typical for USA. The water flows through an ion exchange filter media to remove the calcium and magnesium. Clearly the source of my low hardness issue. I thought I read somewhere that soft water was good... maybe for shrimp.

I just did a 50% water change. Not sure if that is it and/or all my plants are soaking-up everything available.
 

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Excel is an algaecide and works, essentially, by stripping the surface film from plants. It's known to kill shrimp and is typically not great with moss. I could be causing a lot of your problems.
IMHO it is pretty safe to assume this is not Excel issue. In the recommended doses it is safe for virtually everything and the way sensitive plants react to Excel overdose is very different - basically plants just melt away, dissolve in the water without a trace. Excel is a carbon source and it kills algae. In general it helps with plant growth in low tech tanks but it'll probably not help with your problem.
I read somewhere that soft water was good
Yes, in general it is good. In particular water with low KH (alkalinity) is generally good for most plants. Even as low as zero. But most plants do like and need reasonable GH (usually people recommend 5-7 dGH or so, this is Ca + Mg). The biggest problem with water softeners is that they usually substitute Ca and Mg for Na - and sodium in high concentrations is toxic for plants (and many fresh water aquatic organisms in general). Plus, as I already mentioned above, plants do need some level of Ca and Mg in the water, if they are removed completely the results will be poor. I was experimenting with very soft water (mixing it from RO) and most plants grew very bad below ~2 dGH. Mosses actually grew well even in very soft water (< 2 ppm Ca, < 1 ppm Mg). I suspect that you have both sodium poisoning your plants and magnesium deficiency.
I'm not sure your salt water tests are working properly in the fresh water - the same Salifert has separate tests for fresh water (and BTW they are pretty good). Your results are strange (NO3 and PO4 = 0) unless you have no fish at all in the tank. Ca = 20 ppm is about bare minimum, some plants will struggle, many will be fine. Mg = 0 ppm is a big problem, if true. IMHO get proper fresh water tests and test again to be sure, don't change anything before this. And definitely don't do any fast changes to water hardness - this can easily kill your shrimp!
 

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The water softener is pretty typical for USA. The water flows through an ion exchange filter media to remove the calcium and magnesium. Clearly the source of my low hardness issue. I thought I read somewhere that soft water was good... maybe for shrimp.

I just did a 50% water change. Not sure if that is it and/or all my plants are soaking-up everything available.
Ah right ok. I don't have one of those softeners but everything I recall reading about it is that it's... not great. Some folks would have mentioned here already that the sodium it adds is not the best for plants. When you read that soft water is good for plants and shrimp, I believe that generally refers to carbonate hardness. But you want some general hardness. So what's going on with your tank is probably as @Oso Polar has already described.
 

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IMHO it is pretty safe to assume this is not Excel issue. In the recommended doses it is safe for virtually everything and the way sensitive plants react to Excel overdose is very different
Excel and other glutaraldehydes cause moss to brown. It doesn't melt as other, more sensitive plants tend to do when hit with Excel. It's also widely known to cause issues with Anubias and other slow growers.

It's also not always safe at recommended doses for invertebrates. Especially not when someone is a newcomer to the hobby and/or clearly doesn't have first-hand knowledge about how this sort of thing impacts shrimp. Excel has been one of the biggest shrimp killers on the forum since it hit the market.

Pretty good idea not to rule out Excel as an issue. Though, the others that have been brought up are potential issues, as well.

To clear up some confusion about shrimp and water hardness, most Caridina do best in kH of 0 or as close to zero as one can get. gH of about 5-6. Acidic pH usually buffered by active substrates. Neocaridina do best with some kH in the water - most usually aim for 3-4 at minimum but it can be quite a bit higher. gH of 8-12 is usually a great spot for Neos. Those are ideal parameters, obviously, as Neos are hardier than Caridina.
 

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Excel and other glutaraldehydes cause moss to brown. It doesn't melt as other
Hmm, then it does both, I guess. Because I definitely had some mosses melt on me from Excel. After a week of daily 15x overdose. I admit this is first time I hear about widely known issues with anubias and Excel. Anyway, it can't be Excel in this case because OP noticed the problem 3 months ago but started Excel just two weeks ago in an attempt to remediate the problem.
It's also not always safe at recommended doses for invertebrates.
Right, this is a good point, experiences are mixed, especially with shrimp breeding.
 

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I definitely had some mosses melt on me from Excel
I've had it melt moss-like epiphytes like Fissidens in the past. And have seen at least one case of it melting really wide-frond stringy mosses that are native to the Pacific Northwest. But have only ever had and seen it brown the common mosses in the hobby. It just sucks no matter how it's sliced on that front.

But I tend to agree the OP will have better luck ditching the softened water and going with straight, Prime-treated tap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thank you all for the advise. I added some Magnesium last night to bring the tank up 8 ppm (according to reef calculation). No shrimp died today :)

1) I will figure a way to get water before my water softener and transition slow to it. Is 10% water change every day for a week too much?

2) I will get some fresh water test kits and update the group on my parameters

3) I will stop using Excel.

I am also still curious what people think about my lights, if they are too strong?

Ok - I thought there would be an easy access to get water before the water softener. The water softener is for my whole house and the main water supply is piped directly into it. I don't really feel like cutting in a valve into the main water line just for this tank. So I looked up re-mineralizing RODI water. Seachem Equilibrium came up the most. Do you guys have experience or see any risk doing that? Target 3dH?

Sorry for the excessive postings. but if I switch to re-mineralizing my RODI water with Seachem Equilibrium I should stop dosing Flourish, right?
 

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Sorry for the excessive postings. but if I switch to re-mineralizing my RODI water with Seachem Equilibrium I should stop dosing Flourish, right?
Seachem equilibrium will work but it cakes up and hardens like crazy. You'll have to scrape a lot.

Seachem equilibrium will give you calcium, magnesium and if i'm not mistaken a buttload of potassium.

I don't think it contains anything else so please continue dosing some form of fertiliser as your plants need those micronutrients as well.

Depending on plant choice and how heavily stocked your tank is I reckon you could get away with not dosing nitrogen and phosphorus but if someone tells you otherwise please listen to them instead.

Target GH i reckon 5 to 6?
 
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